As the capital of the British Raj, the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) was once the largest colonial trading post in Asia, and today it retains elements of its dual Indian and British heritage. The crowded, chaotic city is the second largest in India, after Mumbai, with 14 million people. Visitors the Kolkata are immediately met with the overwhelming charm of the city and see the people are proud and passionate.
Day 1: Colonial Kolkata
Begin your Bengali explorations at Kolkata’s most famous landmark and symbol of the Raj: the Victoria Memorial. Even if the galleries full of stuffy Victorian portraits and Raj artifacts aren’t your thing, the monument’s exterior is impressive in its own right, and lazing on the manicured lawns makes for prime people watching. In the afternoon, head to the Chowringhee Road district for some window shopping and a cup of afternoon tea before digging deeper into Kolkata’s history in the Indian Museum.
Day 2: Kolkata Outdoors
Start your morning with a stroll through the somber South Park Street Cemetery and its moss-covered tombs and monuments. Spend the remainder of the morning at the city’s largest green area, the Maidan, where you can stop in for a cricket match at the Eden Gardens stadium. From there, head to the Indian Botanical Gardens to sit beneath what may be the largest banyan tree on earth.
Day 3: Spiritual Journey
Rise with the sun today and make your way to Howrah Bridge and the neighboring flower market for a peek into the morning rituals of local Bengalis. Visit the Belur Math Shrine, headquarters of the Ramakrishna movement with its focus on the unity of religions, and then head to the nearby Dakshineswar Kali Temple. From there, venture south to Kalighat, Kolkata’s largest temple to the goddess Kali, and learn about its grisly history. Wrap up your Kolkata trip by paying respects to Mother Teresa at Mother House, the missionary house that houses her tomb and former living quarters.